Even the umpire is saying, "Please, Gio, don't jump to the NFL!" - US PRESSWIRE
Carolina comes out blazing early before falling behind by 14 points in the second half, only to clamp down in the 3rd quarter and show Maryland the door in possibly the Terps' last appearance in Chapel Hill.
I wrote in the game recap that if you had not watched UNC play this year, you pretty much had an example of nearly every aspect of UNC's season in the Maryland game. There was brilliant offensive play by Giovani Bernard and Bryn Renner, dreadful tackling and blown defensive assignments, key second-half adjustments, and UNC ultimately doing what it had to do to be in a position to win the game.
Renner continued to write his name all over the Carolina record books, and Bernard cemented his place as one of the ACC's, if not the country's, premier running backs. Meanwhile the defense allowed a true freshman quarterback, who played linebacker for half the season, to march through the second quarter (and one drive in the 4th) looking like Robert Griffin III. In other words, this game pretty much mirrored UNC's season overall.
So, herein lies your de facto Coastal Division champions edition of the GBU Report:
Bryn Renner: On a day in which a number of seniors (and possibly Gio Bernard) made their last appearance in Kenan Stadium, the junior quarterback had an impressive afternoon. Renner was an efficient 28-39 for 305 yards and 5 touchdown passes, tying his own school record (also shared with Darian Durant). Renner has thrown for 3,000+ yards in back-to-back seasons and set another school record with 28 touchdown passes, while only notching seven interceptions.
Gio Bernard: Just another day at the office for the redshirt sophomore, with 163 yards rushing and a touchdown. Bernard finished with 1,228 rushing yards in only 10 games, as well as 1,981 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns, both of which are second all-time at UNC, behind only the legendary Don McCauley. The Gio watch now begins as Bernard is eligible to enter the NFL draft.
Quinshad Davis: The freshman wide-out picked up where he left off last week after his record-setting performance against Virginia. Davis had nine catches for 135 yards and two TDs, and was a yard short of a third TD on the day.
Tommy Hibbard: The sophomore punter became one of UNC's key weapons over the course of the season. Hibbard averaged nearly 45 yards per punt, had two over 50 yards and two more inside the 20. Only one of his punts was returned on the day.
3rd Quarter Defense: And this is what is so frustrating about Carolina's defense on the season. In the 2nd quarter, UNC allowed converted linebacker Shawn Petty to carve them up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Then in the 3rd quarter, the Heels held Maryland to minus-7 total yards. Similar defensive efforts were shown against Wake and Louisville in the second half, and just last week for most of the game versus Virginia.
Offensive Line: You kind of hate to criticize a group that only gave up 11 sacks on the season (including zero on Saturday) and had a back to gain 163 yards rushing, but the O-line struggled most of the day at the point of attack. Moreover, the O-line collected half of UNC's penalties on the day, including two holding calls and three false starts. Not this unit's finest showing of the year, that's for sure.
Penalties: The penalty monster reared its ugly head again, as the Tar Heels racked up 11 penalties for 86 yards, including a roughing the passer call that kept an early Maryland drive alive for a touchdown.
Kick Coverage Teams: For the second time in three weeks, a kickoff was returned for a touchdown, and the kick return team coughed the ball up for Carolina's only turnover of the game, which led to a Terp touchdown as well.
Overall Defense: This is one of those things that the whole is less than the sum of the parts. When you look at some individual numbers - 8 tackles for loss, an interception, 3-14 on 3rd down conversions, minus-7 yards in the 3rd quarter - it doesn't seem like it would be so bad. Then you look at other numbers - 411 yards in the other 3 quarters (with a converted freshman linebacker at QB), 141 rushing yards surrendered to freshman Brandon Ross, 4 defensive penalties - and you realize how amazing it is UNC won 8 games in spite of its defense.
Still, a win is a win and with the victory, Carolina reaches the 8-win plateau once again. The Heels finish with a share of first in the Coastal Division, though the ACC will not recognize it as such because UNC is ineligible for the post-season. Carolina also posts the best win/loss record in the Coastal and the 3rd-best in the ACC, behind only Clemson and Florida State. UNC heads into the offseason needing to solve some defensive problems and wondering if Bernard will stay or go, but otherwise carry many positives into the winter.